Starting and Charging System

When you turn the ignition, you expect to hear the purr of an engine, not the whine of an engine that refuses to crank. The sound of an engine unwilling to turn over causes lateness and frustration. The starting and charging system of a vehicle are two of the most important systems for cranking the engine. If the engine refuses to start, then the problem could be in the starting and charging systems of the vehicle.

Click the Starting and Charging System tab to learn more, and check out the module under Systems Animations.



The battery looks like a little, black box situated in the front of the vehicle under the hood. Although small, this black box packs a large punch. The battery delivers voltage to the starter by converting a chemical reaction into electrical energy. Without electrical energy sent to the starter, the engine will not start.

The battery also plays a role in other vehicle accessories. For example, even when the engine is not running, the lights, radio, and other components still function. The battery supplies power to all of the components that still function when the engine is not running, and if the headlights, radio, and other accessories work but the engine will not start, then the battery is most likely not the problem.

You should replace the battery when:

  • The engine cranks but will not start.
  • The engine will not crank or start, and the lights and radio will not turn on.
  • The engine starts perfectly one day and not the next.
  • The engine takes a while to start.
  • You have already jumped the battery numerous times.

To avoid dealing with the symptoms of a dying or dead battery, the owner should maintain a replacement schedule. The battery should be replaced every 60,000 miles to ensure optimal performance.

Ignition Module and Coil

The ignition plays an important role in starting a vehicle. When the driver places the key in the ignition and turns the key, the ignition module and coil increase the overall electrical voltage in the system. The increased electrical voltage in the system sends current to the spark plugs. Spark plugs need the increased voltage in order to ignite the fuel and air mixture for internal combustion. Without a functioning ignition module and coil, the vehicle will not start.

The ignition module or coil should be replaced if:

  • The engine will not start.
  • The engine misfires.
  • The engine will not start as easily as it should.
  • There is visible physical wear on the parts.

Distributor Cap

The distributor cap acts as a connecting hub passing voltage from the ignition coils to the engine's cylinders via the spark plug wires and spark plugs. The voltage redirected through the distributor cap allows the spark plugs to perform their role in the process of internal combustion within the engine. Without the distributor cap, voltage is not delivered to the appropriate spark plugs, and the engine will not run.

Symptoms of a failing or failed distributor cap include:

  • The vehicle does not start as easily as before.
  • The engine will not start at all.
  • The check engine light comes on.
  • The fuel economy decreases.
  • Physical wear is visible on distributor cap.

Spark Plugs

Although small in size, spark plugs deliver a high bolt of electricity needed to start the engine. Spark plugs fit into the engine's cylinder head and spark to ignite the fuel for the engine. This small, but incredibly important process, occurs thousands of times over the course of one minute. A spark plug that refuses to fire causes rough idle and could cause the engine to have trouble starting.

You should replace the spark plugs when:

  • The engine has a rough idle.
  • Difficulty starting the engine
  • A higher than normal fuel consumption
  • Lack of acceleration
  • The engine misfires.
  • The engine surges/ jerks.

To prevent any of the symptoms listed above, the spark plugs should be replaced every 30,000 miles.

Starter Motor

The starter motor engages after the ignition turns. The electric starter motor turns the engine over so that the engine can intake air. Air flows through the engine by creating suction, and if the engine refuses to turn over, then the engine does not suck in air. A mixture of fuel, electricity, and air are crucial to the internal combustion that goes on inside an engine. Without the appropriate amounts of each of the three elements, the engine will not start.

Symptoms of a starter going bad include:

  • sporadic engine cranking.
  • poor starting qualities.


The alternator produces a significant amount of energy in order to power the electrical components of the vehicle. Between the alternator and the battery, the vehicle's electrical system receives the power needed to perform various tasks. The alternator and the battery's unique relationship keeps all of the electrical components running smoothly.

Ever wonder why you do not need to charge a car battery like you would a phone battery? As long as the engine runs, the alternator works to keep the battery charged. So, the next time that you turn the ignition, the engine cranks perfectly. If all you hear is a click-click sound when you turn the ignition, then the problem could be the alternator.

You should replace you alternator if:

  • The headlights are dim or flickering.
  • Other electrical systems such as power windows, power locks, and dashboard lights start to fail.
  • The "ALT" or "GEN" light comes on.
  • A newly replaced battery continues to die.
  • The vehicle stalls or has difficulty starting.
  • Unusual noises in the vehicle

Contact your local Athens Georgia Mechanic if you suspect you need to replace your battery, ignition module and coil, distributor cap, spark plugs, starter motor, or alternator.  

Car Service Athens GA

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